19 January 2011

Joel Espe: Featured farmer at Locavore Dinner

Joel Espe, owner of Hawks Hill Elk Ranch (Monticello, WI)
I'm very happy to confirm that Joel Espe of Hawks Hill Elk Ranch will join us for the Locavore Dinner at In Fine Spirits. Joel and his wife Cheri have raised award-winning, purebred elk on their family-owned operation near Monticello, Wisconsin since 2001. They practice sustainable, whole-system ranching to optimize the health of the land and the herd.

At Hawks Hill, the pastures are maintained with organic fertilizers and the grazed-then-growth cycle of native grasses prevents soil erosion. Joel and Cheri's commitment to humane elk ranching extends well-beyond their property line, as demonstrated by their effort to implement 3rd-party humane slaughter certification in Wisconsin packing plants. The integrity of the Espe's operation is reflected in the quality of their elk products. They have won of 19 national and international meat competitions, more than any other elk breeder in the U.S.

Joel has served on USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack's Advisory Council as one of 25 leading livestock producers in the U.S. He is President of the Non-Traditional Farmers and Ranchers Coalition, Past-President of the Wisconsin Commercial Deer and Elk Farmers Association and Past-President of the North American Elk Breeders Association, but he continues to serve as Legislative Liaison for this organization, which recognized him with its President's Award for outstanding service in 2010. In 2009, Joel founded the National Institute for Humane Slaughter and also received the Green County (WI) Quality of Life Award for volunteerism and community service.

Joel and Cheri participate year-round at Chicago's Green City Market, where they sell elk steaks, roasts, burgers, and brats and offer recipes, cooking instructions and samples of their delicious, award-winning elk sticks. For the Locavore Dinner at In Fine Spirits, Chef Marianne Sundquist will prepare an elk roast into a ragout, served with crispy ricotta gnocchi, Sartori SarVecchio parmesan and chive for the third course in our 5-course feast of local food.

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